07 Aug

One Week

Recently a father-to-be in an antenatal session asked about my work and commented on how varied it is. On a busy week I sometimes feel it might be a bit too varied! Now it’s the summer holidays and I’m not doing much at all, which is another big advantage of being self-employed. I thought I’d share a typical week:

In the morning I drive down to Hampshire to help at a breastfeeding drop-in running alongside a Health Visitors’ weighing clinic. It can be quite quiet but today there are a few mums and babies, and it’s a nice place to work because there’s another Breastfeeding Counsellor working alongside me. As you will see, while almost all my work is with people, it’s not very often that I work with a colleague.

Back from Hampshire in time to record an episode of Sprogcast with Mark Harris. This is a newish project, and great fun to do, but it’s pretty time consuming with the preparatory reading, interviews, and editing. It’s getting easier, though.

My son has a playdate after school so I don’t have to worry about doing his tea, but I do have to feed myself and my partner before I go out to facilitate session two of an NCT Essentials Antenatal Course. Session two is the one about labour and birth, so quite an intense evening for me, as this is not my specialist area.

I usually have to wind down in front of the television for an hour or so after an evening class; it’s nice to have some time with my partner, too.

This morning I’m running an Introducing Solids workshop in Reading. These are quite a challenge because the clients have such differing needs, and because I’m not used to working in a room full of babies. You would think that I’d be more confident, having done them for years now, but I have to take a deep breath before every one of these workshops.

I get home in time for a swim, before picking my son up from school and taking him for his own swimming lesson. No evening class tonight so I can chill with my partner.

On Wednesdays I run the local NCT Bumps & Babies group in a church in a town centre. I usually cycle in, then go for a swim afterwards. Bumps & Babies is fun, usually a good age range (the babies, that is!), and lots of chat. It’s a great place to come to meet other new mums and find out about what’s going on locally. We talk a lot about sleep, and nurseries.

In the afternoon I do a couple of hours on the NCT Breastfeeding Line, talking to (mainly) mums all over the country. Sometimes when the line is quiet I use that as my admin time, but sometimes a two-hour shift features back to back calls and a load of voicemail messages too.

The evening is tricky because my son has a karate lesson, and I have an antenatal group reunion, now that everyone in the group has had their baby and had a few weeks to get used to the idea. The group wanted it to be early evening, in a pub local to where I ran the course. This involves driving my son to my partner’s office, where he eats a picnic tea before getting the train home and walking up to karate; then going on to the pub and leaving in time to get back and pick him up at the end. And after that I had my tea!

A quiet day! So I might go for a run or a swim in the morning, and the only work I’m doing during the day is an hour on the Breastfeeding Line and a call with one of my BFC supervisees. Any spare time will be spent editing the podcast.

In the evening I drive to Windsor where I’m facilitating an antenatal breastfeeding session for NCT. This always feels like my “core” work, the thing I joined NCT to do. Most of the time it’s the best, easiest and most rewarding of my many roles. Even the challenging groups are usually fun, and if you like the inside of church halls, then oh my goodness this is exciting work. That’s not the main thing for me, though…

I’m in Didcot training a group of dedicated and enthusiastic mums to be Breastfeeding Peer Supporters. This is new work for me, and I’m learning a lot as I go along, as – I hope – are they! With the driving time, it takes up the full day and I’m usually home about five minutes before my son gets in from school. We usually spend Friday afternoon after school over at Ailsa’s house where the boys play together and we get to drink tea and debrief.

Over the last year I’ve tried to cut out weekend work altogether, although I do sometimes offer my time on NCT’s Crisis Support line for other practitioners. Sometimes I do a class on a Saturday morning, but particularly in the summer I try to avoid this. I used to do two a day on a Saturday which was exhausting but paid well enough to justify giving up half my weekend.

This was a typical week, with about 18.5 hours of paid work and I can only hazard a guess at how much unpaid work I do on top of that, with things like volunteering for my NCT branch, taking local breastfeeding support calls, and all the admin that my roles entail. And this is a week with no doula client, and possibly the reason why there’s no doula client is that I just can’t spare enough regular hours to support someone properly. I love my work, I love supporting new parents and being part of this massively varied and positive profession. And I love having the flexibility to drop it all in the summer holidays so that I don’t have to worry about childcare – and I love my partner (not only) because without his support I’d never be able to do any of this.

Views expressed here are my own, and do not represent the views of NCT.